I lay on a narrow bed in a darkened corner of Matruska’s house, the flicker from a single candle our only light.
“Rest Maya,” she tells me, “and breathe into your belly, while I gather friends from unseen places.”
I watch from the corner of my eye, a little nervous, not knowing what she means, as Matruska picks up a large spiral shell.
“Water spirits,” she calls, as if coaxing them from their fluid depths. “Come!” The sound of the shell is horn-like and haunting, the reverberation filling the room. She stands in squirrel skin slippers, her sapphire blue eyes closed under white lashes. After a moment she places the shell in the west near a bowl of scented water.
Matruska’s eyes reflect flames as she faces the south, holding a handmade torch in the embers until it blazes into life. “Fire spirits, come!” She says, waving the torch around the room, as if burning away an unseen darkness that lives near my essence. When she’s finished she flings the remaining bundle into the fire.
A cold winter breeze blows her long white hair as she faces east, throwing open a window. “Wind spirits, come!” She commands, then walks with a determined gait toward a box perched on a shelf above the hearth, retrieving a single feather from a kestrel falcon. It is bound in leather and decorated with small pieces of bone. Matruska waves it over the length of my bed, securing it over my heart with a piece of jasper.
“Earth spirits, come!” She continues, taking clay from a bucket and smearing it on my forehead, hands and feet. “This is your daughter, Maya, who needs your help. Now is the time to be with her.”
Matruska stands in silence feeling the difference in the room. Even I can sense the power of it and the shift in my body. Gooseflesh rises all over me, like little fingers of truth, as I acknowledge that we are no longer alone.
“Breathe from your belly,” she tells me, going to the sink to wash her hands. “Your answers are there.”
She retrieves a steaming black rag from a pot on the stove, placing the warm cloth over my eyes. “Rest,” she laughs, reaching for a lute.
“The spirits love poetry and music. We must appease them before they will help.”
The timbre of the music is at once resonant and piercing, then mellow and breathy, the effect lulling me to a quieter inner place.
I wait and breathe, listening to the lute and her words of instruction, lingering in darkness between worlds until my vision begins to alter. To my surprise, there is an opening, an image appearing, as if immerging from a fog.
“What do you see?” she asks. “Something has come.”
“Yes,” I answer. But speaking is a great effort. I am in one world and she asks me to report to another, I am not sure I can do both. I reenter the scene, endeavoring to share the vision.
“I feel a man’s arms around my waist. He holds me close. There is mystery and impassioned breath on my neck. His lips are ripe and full.”
“Let him speak to you,” Matruska instructs. “and listen carefully to what he says.”
I breathe back into the scene. In my mind we sit together on the side of a hill. There are others there, women, but at a distance.
“Can you help me?” I ask the man. He looks deep into my eyes, as if knowing me, then turns his back and walks away. I yell after him. “Do not go, I beseech you!”
“This is auspicious,” Matruska says. “You have seen a face. Ask if he is your husband?”
I do not feel that he is, and yet, there is something there, something compelling and indefinable. His eyes are dark and penetrating, looking through me as he answers.
“I am the father of your child, but your husband is another.”
I bolt from the bed, ripping the cloth from my face and feather from my heart, its anchoring stone tumbling across the floor.
“This is not working,” I tell her. “This is wrong, this is all wrong.”
She moves to my side, calming me.
“Come away now, into cool night air and tell me what happened.”
I am embarrassed, not wanting to share. She leads me outside, down a narrow path and onto a forest swing beneath barren wisteria vines.